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I am trying to backup my home directory using rsync, and I want to exclude some of the directories that contain junk. I want to specifically exclude /home/ben/.ccache and /home/ben/build. Unfortunately the documentation for rsync was information overload and didn't answer my question. This is what I tried:

rsync -arv --exclude "/home/ben/.ccache:/home/ben/build" /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/

What is the right way to do this?

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Just wanted to say that the flag a implies r already :) -a, --archive archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X) –  Populus Apr 17 at 13:32

3 Answers 3

up vote 27 down vote accepted

OK I feel really dumb. Before I even posted this question my friend showed me how to do it and it is really simple. To exclude multiple directories you just use multiple --exclude=path switches. So my command above properly written is as follows:

rsync -arv --exclude=.ccache --exclude=build /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/
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The exclude is relative to the "source" directory I believe, so those excludes should really be: --exclude '.ccache' --exclude 'build'. The way they are written above, they would be excluding: "/home/ben/home/ben/.ccache" which is not what is wanted. –  Seanchán Dec 1 '13 at 22:38
Yes you're right! I fixed the example. Thanks! –  Freedom_Ben Dec 2 '13 at 2:52

When having multiple directories and/or files to exclude, make a text file and use the "--exclude-from" switch. Make a file called exclude_me.txt and in it list your exclusions. Example:
/home/ben/exclude_me.txt .ccache build .java .gvfs .xsession-errors
Then your rsync would look something like:

rsync -arv --exclude-from '/home/ben/exclude_me.txt'/home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/

This may also help:

/dir/ means exclude the root folder /dir
/dir/* means get the root folder /dir but not the contents
dir/ means exclude any folder anywhere where the name contains dir/
Examples excluded: /dir/, /usr/share/mydir/, /var/spool/dir/
/dir means exclude any folder anywhere where the name contains /dir
Examples excluded: /dir/, /usr/share/directory/, /var/spool/dir/
/var/spool/lpd//cf means skip files that start with cf within any folder
within /var/spool/lpd
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Good tip, thanks! +1 –  Freedom_Ben May 19 '14 at 22:01
Thanks, +1, but you missed = makes it fail in --exclude-from. Should be --exclude-from=. –  Ilia Rostovtsev Feb 12 at 12:35

This should also work:

sync -arv --exclude={.ccache,build} /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/
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